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This article was published 21/5/2019 (882 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As Susana Yuen looks forward to her induction to the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, she’s also taking a moment to acknowledge those who supported her pioneering gold-medal journey.
On May 2, the provincial hall announced Yuen’s inclusion in the 2019 class as a player.
"It’s very surreal and it’s a great honour and privilege to be inducted into the hall of fame," Yuen said. "It’s a privilege to be a part of that history."
In 1990, a 23-year-old Yuen suited up in a now infamous pink and white Team Canada jersey and represented the country at the first International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned Women’s World Ice Hockey Championship.
Team Canada took gold in the tournament final against the U.S., in front of a crowd of 9,000 in Ottawa, Ont. The four-foot-ten right winger scored a goal in the third period to push Canada to what would be a 5-2 victory and the country’s first women’s world title.
Yuen was also one of the tournament’s top 10 scorers with five goals and seven assists. She also recorded six points in a single game, a national team record that remained untouched until 2007.
The atmosphere within the arena was wild, Yuen said, and everyone was swept up in the excitement of women’s hockey.
While admitting serious nerves, playing in the championship final was a moment of arrival for her team, she said.
"Coming out into the rink for warm-up and the rink was full, it was packed and it was loud. That was my first experience playing and competing in an arena with that magnitude of audience.
"When we played at home, maybe someone’s parents would come, or the boyfriend would come," she said with a laugh.
Looking back, Yuen said getting a spot on the Team Canada roster was a bit like winning the lottery.
Yuen was raised in Waverley Heights, and played ringette for the Waverley Heights and Victoria Community Centres until high school. At that time, hockey wasn’t an option for girls, she said.
"Growing up, my brother Ed used to organize street hockey games or activities in the neighbourhood, so I played with them and that was probably when I picked up my first hockey stick," she recalled.
Her parents, two immigrants from China who worked tirelessly at their business in Crescentwood, never said no when it came to sports, Yuen said.
Coaches and family friends were instrumental in getting her to practices and games, offering rides, and laying the foundation for her hockey career.
In her first year at the University of Manitoba, Yuen was encouraged by a former teammate to join the university’s women’s hockey team.
Playing with the Lady Bisons in 1984 was Yuen’s first competitive hockey experience. Not yet an inter-collegiate program and open to faculty, students, staff, and the community, the hockey club played exhibition games against teams in the Winnipeg Women’s Hockey League in Yuen’s first season.
Four years later, recruiters for Team Canada got in touch with the league. They were looking to build a roster for the inaugural world championship and three players from Manitoba had a chance to skate at the selection camp.
Yuen put her name forward and received a call saying she was welcome to play, for a cost of $50.
"I didn’t have any expectations of making a national team," she said. "When I went, I was in awe of everything, and in awe of seeing the skill level of the players there."
The world championship was a stepping stone for women’s hockey and the progression of the game in Canada, Yuen said, and made it acceptable for young female athletes to play hockey.
While still not a perfect system, there are more opportunities for female hockey players today than ever before, Yuen said, and she’s proud to see players pursuing the game at an elite level and advocating for women’s hockey.
"When I look at what the girls are accomplishing now in the sport, I do feel proud," she said. "They’re carrying it on."
At the same time, Yuen said it’s also important for her to recognize her roots and heritage.
The week Yuen got the call about her induction into the hall of fame, she was also preparing the arrangements for her mother’s funeral.
"What I think is interesting too, because my mom just passed away recently, and I’m reflecting, is when I look at the fact that my parents were immigrants, and I look at all my siblings, they’ve always really supported us.
"In that sense, I feel like my parents were very progressive," she said.
"This induction is almost like a tribute to them."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.